After 1997, if you were an English rock band that showed a little flash of art or creativity in your music; chances are you’d be thrown into a category with Radiohead. This would either elevate some bands or damn some of them into a profile they couldn’t shake. Just because you sing falsetto and play some piano chords doesn’t make you Thom Yorke, but as the music world was making sense of Radiohead’s game-changing album Ok Computer, the press hunted similar bands and cast them to the fire. In this week’s spotlight artist installment we’re going to take a look at the two albums many folks don’t even know exist when they hear the name Muse and how they aren’t Radiohead.
First and foremost on these albums there is a much larger drum sound; since Muse is a trio the drums pound much heavier and faster than most Radiohead songs. Second, the yowling that we hear is closer in comparison to Jeff Buckley than Thom Yorke and there isn’t that mumble lurking around. Third piece is that these songs are often self-deprecating in a way that calls Robert Smith of The Cure to mind more than anything else. The sense of “I have problems that you can’t help with so don’t weep for me” can even be found in The Smiths. True, early Radiohead had some of these qualities, but there is a syncopation that you get on Pablo Honey or The Bends that you don’t find on Showbiz or Origin of Symmetry.
Then you have that guitar sound which is unique to Muse’s style. Matt Bellamy has been quoted as saying he took more of his cues from Tom Morello. You can hear this as he warps his instrument to make some crushing noises that blend in to his high pitched screams. It makes you wonder what would have happened if they didn’t go down the path of conceptual art and prog.
Many of my favorite tracks are on these two albums: “Fillip”, “Muscle Museum”, “Uno”, “Overdue”, “Cave” from Showbiz and “Plug In Baby”, “Hyper Music”,”Citizen Erased”, “New Born”, “Bliss”, “Feeling Good” from Origin of Symmetry. Before he became Mr. Kate Hudson, Bellamy wrote some great no nonsense rock songs that were all killer. As we’ll see next week he does have a penchant for conspiracy.
No matter, if you were a casual listener about 10 years ago, like myself, Avid Reader, then you’d hear these albums and think they were pretty good compared to a lot of the American rock that was being mass produced. Muse were fresh air during a stale time for rabid music fans looking for something that didn’t sound like Godsmack. I laugh sometimes when I think there was a time that Muse were a little band from England that no one might ever hear in the states. You’d do well to find these two albums and their live DVD called Hullabaloo to help solidify their reputation as a live act.